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Jury Verdicts Being Tainted by Internet, Social Media? - Part Two

In our last blog post, we discussed the disturbing trend of jurors in criminal trials engaging in Internet-related misconduct. Some jurors are choosing to disobey the rules of the courtroom by performing independent research and blogging, tweeting and posting comments on the trial. This is especially troubling to North Carolina criminal defense attorneys, as these activities deprive criminal defendants of a fair trial by impartial juries. Today, we will continue to look at how juries' Internet misconduct can affect criminal trials.

A legal analysis by Reuters Legal looked at decisions in which judges overturned a verdict, granted a new trial or denied a request for a new trial due to Internet-related juror misconduct. Going back to 1999, there have been a minimum of 90 verdicts challenged due to this type of juror misconduct. The majority of these cases occurred in the last two years. Even when judges declined to declare a mistrial because of Internet misconduct, they still found the jurors engaged in Internet-related misconduct in three-fourths of the cases.

The Reuters Legal report provided a disturbing look at the content of several jurors' tweets on Twitter, a popular social networking site. The study monitored tweets for three weeks in November and December and found a tweet regarding jury duty occurred once every three minutes. Many of these tweets made statements about a defendant's innocence or guilt, even before the trial had started. For example, one tweet read "Jury duty is a blow. I've already made up my mind. He's guilty. LOL."

In our last blog post on the subject, we will look at what courts are doing to fight jurors' Internet-related misconduct and discuss whether these methods will be adequate to protect the rights of criminal defendants.

Source: Reuters Africa "As jurors go online, U.S. trials go off track," Brian Grow, 8 December 2010

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